Stubble Burning: Major Source of Pollution or Political Scapegoat?
(This article was first published on 8 November 2016 and is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark the start of the annual burning of stubble. The practice in Punjab and Haryana is often blamed for compounding air pollution in the national capital region ahead of the onset of winter.)
Farmers in Haryana and Punjab have faced a lot of flak after the Delhi government blamed a large portion of the the haze on farmers burning their fields.
Farmers burn the stubble that remains after they’ve cultivated their crops so they can get the land ready for a new batch. Though the practice has been banned, it is hardly enforced.
So every year, farmers light their stubble on fire, and every year Delhi complains about the pollution that follows.
But some experts say it’s not as simple as blaming the farmers. Delhi’s pollution is complex and comes from numerous sources.
Delhi is a dust-bowl of a city, and a lot of that dust gets kicked up by construction and cars on the road. Though there are measures to reduce dust – like companies are supposed to water down construction – enforcement of regulations remains a major issue.
There are also a number of industries and power plants around Delhi that cough pollution into the surrounding air. This year has been especially bad since there hasn’t been much wind to push away the haze, experts say.
These farm fires were responsible for 70 percent of the city’s pollution on 6 November, 2016 according to Dr Gufran Beig, program director of SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research).
Delhi’s Health Minister Satyendra Jain in 2016 had concurred with Beig’s opinion, asserting that these fires are the major contributors to Delhi’s pollution.
In a press conference in 2016, however, the Environment Minister said 80 percent of the air pollution in Delhi comes from Delhi itself, while only 20 percent can be attributed to crop burning.
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